Anti-romanticist romanticism

11 01 2011

Sometimes it is good to look at what you think from another angle. I do so over and over again. Indeed, most of my projects are games of “let’s turn this on its head and see what it looks like.”

In this case, I would like to analyze why I have been so adverse to romanticism of all stripes. I have concluded that this sentiment is due to a mind blinded by romanticism. Indeed, is that not the essence of cynicism: a profound disappointment with things as they are? Are not cynics idealists who have just given up? Perhaps that is the reason that I can’t sit through a piece by Liszt and keep a straight face. There is a voracious totalitarianism at work in romanticism: an attempt to swallow reality in the emotional gaze, an attempt to absorb all mysteries of thought into the great well of passionate reason.

Why then resist? I have preferred artforms that have “left me alone”, so to speak; philosophies that explain the least but speak the most. But perhaps the best anti-romanticism is to own one’s romanticism. To not want to be “pegged down” to a certain position is the failure to accept failure itself. But the human condition is failure. To own up to systems that fail, to beliefs that are not perfect, is the greatest feat of superhuman realism. Yes, one perhaps will roll one’s eyes from time to time. But ideology may know better than we do, or the only way to beat it at its own game is to accept it as is, warts and all.